Webcasts or conference calls?

Experts compare the different options for results calls

This article was produced by ELITE Connect and originally published on the ELITE Connect platform

As the growth of online technologies leads to webcasting becoming an increasingly popular way for companies to host their results, are conference calls becoming obsolete? We hear from two leading IR experts who outline how they choose to communicate with investors, and their views on the benefits of each method. 

For Victrex, face-to-face results meetings, complemented by a conference call option with a Q&A session at the end, is the preferred method of communication for its annual and interim results.

‘We have not historically webcast our results, although we do webcast capital markets days and are keen to maximize our audience reach through different channels,’ says Andrew Hanson, head of investor relations & communications at Victrex. ‘We feel that as our results are relatively concise, a conference call and replay serves equally well and enables a wide audience reach. In terms of investor opinion on a favored approach, it’s a mixed bag – we have received feedback that some investors prefer webcasts while many are quite happy with a conference call.’

Giles Croot, group head of communications and investor relations at Balfour Beatty, is an advocate of webcasting, regularly using the technology to communicate Balfour Beatty’s results. ‘I think this sort of streaming is well established now, and it offers the benefit of allowing for people who cannot be in the room to see the full presentation and for it to be time-shifted,’ he says. ‘We provide a stream of our full-year and half-year results presentations and there is a phone line people can use should they wish to ask a question – though relatively few people do.’ 

Croot does, however, point to conference calls as providing an easier and often more cost-effective way of communicating with investors in certain situations: ‘Clearly there are resource issues around web streaming and events, so for urgent announcements and for less significant events, conference calls are a perfectly good solution.’ 

As with all methods of communication, webcasting has its disadvantages. ‘I’m not sure whether anyone can or does carry out results as a genuine webcast (ie, with two-way sound and/or vision),’ Croot says. ‘There are lots of practical issues around getting through firewalls and time delays. Also, there’s the practical point that many people would be viewing in an open-plan office so don’t want to be contributing from somewhere where extraneous noises could be heard.’

So where do webcasts outshine their conference call alternatives? Webcasts can be followed on every device from any location, an important consideration in today’s age of smartphones and tablet devices. The fact that webcasts can also be viewed on demand further extends their potential audiences and means investors never miss any important financial news.

For Hanson, the technology’s visual capability, along with its appeal to access larger groups, regardless of location, are key benefits. ‘We are comfortable with a conference call, except for capital market days or other more detailed briefings,’ he says. ‘We use webcasting for these because the topics being discussed are more in-depth and we benefit from being able to reach a wider audience. Webcasting also offers us the opportunity to visually highlight and describe our products, and means we can carry out our capital market day activity with a high level of professionalism.’

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